10/14/2009 04:07 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Fearless Factor

Above my desk, on what my sweetheart calls my altar-cation, is a framed page from a Mary Englebreit page-a-day calendar from my birthday one long-ago year. It reads: "You must do the thing you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt." It is my favorite quote.

You can imagine my pleasure at reading the quote in its entirety in the beginning of The Fearless Factor: Overcome the Fears, Doubts and Anxieties that Stop you from Being Your Best Self Now by Jacqueline Wales. "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.... You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

Looking fear in the face is exactly what Ms. Wales has done, and so have her Tales from the Trail compatriots. It's really the only way to deal with fear, any fear, no matter how great or how small, once and for all. Despite the very human instinct toward flight, far better to stop, turn around, and face fear head-on.

All of us have fears of varying ilks and degrees. Fear is not really the problem. Wales assures us, "Fear is a learned response. We are conditioned into it so we can be conditioned out of it." The book is a path through the jungle of fear into a boulevard of empowered, self-directed change.

Wales, to be sure, does not tell her readers not to fear. On the contrary, she affirms fear as a part of everyday existence. I so appreciate that. The self-helpers mean well who tell us we need not fear, but their claim is bogus. Wales talks about learning to embrace her fear as a lover. Isn't that wise?

Turn toward your fear. Embrace it. Running from it only makes it, not you, stronger. Okay, Fear, what are you trying to give me? Stop. Breathe. Let that stitch in your side wane. Look Fear in the face, and then ask yourself a question: What am I willing to give up?

Oh yes, there's a cost to releasing fear in this life. A dear one, but a worthy one. "The reason for fearing things is all about control. You fear that you have no control over an outcome. You fear that you don't have the ability to do or say the right thing. You fear being rejected, abandoned, embarrassed, or foolish. You don't trust. The underlying message of fear is, 'I don't know if I'm capable of handling this. It might be too much.'"

And what are the operative words in that last excerpt? You guessed it: I don't know. They might just be the most liberating three words in English! So what?

So you don't know. Cool. You stand a chance of learning something about yourself and life. Excellent! Proceed. By trusting yourself, your faith relationship whatever that might be, by watching the responses of the universe to your actions, by asking for guidance. Yes, by living life forwards as it unfolds and adjusting your choices just as a pilot adjusts course 85% of the time. It's called steering, Beloved, and an authentic life requires it.

One of the things that makes Jacqueline Wale's book so delightful is that she's a 50-something. Yep, that's right, a woman over fifty, without apology, without complaint, going forward to live the life of her dreams--because she wants to do so.

The seven stages that she used to transform her life are an acronym: P.A.S.S.I.O.N. I loved that right there! Here they are:

1. Permission
2. Action
3. Strength
4. Support
5. Inspiration
6. Owning
7. Nurture

Give yourself permission to create whatever you want regardless of the opinions of others.
Make a plan and take some action, any action, toward that plan.
Taking action gives us strength in ourselves.
Look for support to take you further along the path you want to travel.
Let those around you inspire you.
Owning who you are becoming gives you confidence.
Learn how to nurture yourself.

Muriel Rukeyser has been quoted as saying, "What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open." Given our world at the moment, I think that's a good idea.

There are a lot of us 50-something women these days. We are working to find our way to fully expressed living. Jacqueline Wales' new book is a gentle, clear guide for that path.

For spiritual nourishment, go to